NEWS: County Players And Coaches Feel Proposed Restructure Is “Backward Step”

The ECB’s planned overhaul of women’s county cricket, whereby from 2020 only a top tier of 8 or 10 counties will participate in the County Championship, is sparking concerns among players and coaches that it will stymie the development of the sport.

The proposals would mean the end of the careers of approximately 250 senior county players, who the ECB hope will move into the club structure from 2020.

However, the weakness of the underlying club structure in some regions of the country effectively means that some of these players may be lost to cricket for good.

One player from a Division 3 county said:

“I understand the intent, but can’t help that feel a lot of women like myself will suffer.”

“Some of us are perhaps ahead of the varying standard of women’s club cricket, and were finding our feet in Division 3 and 2. To make these feeders and have a select few ‘elite’ sides, where the net will be cast wider and subsequently, numbers harder to compete with, I fear my hopes of competing at a standard suitable for myself will dwindle.”

“I feel this is a backwards step.”

Another, responding to the proposals on Twitter, labelled the move a “massive shame”: “Been playing county senior cricket for 10 years and to see it end will be pretty rubbish”.

CRICKETher understands that the proposals were presented to those working in the current women’s set-up at four consultation meetings held around the country in 2018.

However, while these meetings presented an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals, some working in county cricket feel their views have not been taken into account.

One county coach told CRICKETher:

“I think the narrowing of a growing market could do a lot more harm than good. It would strangle the rapid organic growth and increase in quality that we were witnessing at the coal face.”

“There is some wonderful cricket going on in Division 2 and 3. That is a result of hard work and natural growth and evolution of the women’s game that is going to be squashed.”

OPINION: Reading The Runes On England’s Warm-Up Win In Sri Lanka

England began their tour of Sri Lanka with a comfortable win in a “jumpers for goalposts” warm-up match against a relatively inexperienced “Emerging” Sri Lanka team in Colombo.

England fielded 13 players, with most of the squad getting a run-out with either bat or ball. Lauren Winfield top-scored with 82 (retired) as England posted 319, before bowling the Sri Lankans out in exactly 40 overs, with Heather Knight taking 4-13.

Reading the runes on England’s selections, it looks like Amy Jones, who scored 56 (also retired) will continue to open the batting in the ODIs with Tammy Beaumont; with Lauren Winfield maybe coming in at 3 ahead of Heather Knight and Nat Sciver, as she did in the 3rd ODI in India.

Bowling-wise, although Katherine Brunt has travelled to Sri Lanka, she was originally planned to be rested for this tour, and she didn’t play in the warm-up. Instead, Freya Davies opened the bowling with Anya Shrubsole – Davies finishing with 1-16 from 6 overs.

Does this mean Davies is nailed-on for the ODIs? It would be a bold statement of faith from the coach… but that’s exactly the sort of thing Mark Robinson likes to do! (Remember Linsey Smith, Sophia Dunkley and Kirstie Gordon all making their debuts together at the World Twenty20?)

England’s bowling is obviously a bit injury-ravaged at the moment, with Georgia Elwiss and Sophie Ecclestone both having flown home and straight into rehab, so other options are obviously on the table, but it looks like Sophia Dunkley is not one of them – she didn’t bowl in the warm-up, and it seems like England see her as a pure batsman at the moment.

Danni Wyatt however, did send down some overs – they were rather expensive (going at 7.8, compared to Freya Davies’ 2.3) but England clearly do have her in mind as an option.

NEWS: Bidding Process To Decide Which Counties Field Sides In Women’s County Championship From 2020

More details are coming to light regarding the ECB’s proposed restructure of women’s county cricket from 2020.

CRICKETher understands that the top 10 counties will be decided by a bidding process, whereby counties will put forward expressions of interest and the ECB will then grant hosting rights to the strongest proposals.

The top counties will be supported by 10 Academy “hubs”, and will play in a one-division Championship, while the old Division 2 and 3 counties will simply serve as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest county side.

Revenue from the ECB’s new TV deal will be used to enable the top 10 counties to offer professionally staffed set-ups. Players will also be remunerated, though this will likely fall short of fully professional pay, at least initially.

While the bidding process is ostensibly an open one, it seems logistically unlikely that the 8 “Hundred” counties will not feature in the new Championship – not least because this will limit the amount of travelling which the top women’s players will need to do.

CRICKETher understands that Sussex are confident they will be one of the selected counties, given their extensive facilities at the Aldridge Cricket Academy funded by millionaire Sir Rod Aldridge, which leaves just one spot in the top flight remaining.

The traditional prominence of the southern counties in the women’s game means that large areas of England are likely to be unrepresented in the new Women’s County Championship.

Current players who represent the counties which are not successful in the bidding process will be encouraged to play club cricket as an alternative.

MATCH REPORT: 3rd T20, England v India – “Walk this way…”

Ravi Nair reports

In the intervening day between the second T20I and today, there was some talk about India’s running (or walking) between the wickets. India’s captain Smriti Mandhana in an interview said, among other things, that India needed to work on their running, that they hit either fours or dots, that they needed to rotate the strike more, and so on. CRICKETher’s very own Syd Egan then proved this, using numbers and tables, and probably slide rules and the differential calculus as well. But a lot of this sounds like captain’s waffle, or overanalysis to the spectator, until she sees it exemplified for herself in an actual match. And that, as if made to order, was what happened in the third and final (“dead rubber”) T20I between India and England in Guwahati.

Simply put, England won by one run, after a fantastic final over by Kate Cross in which she took two wickets and gave away only one run. But behind this lies a tale. In their last three overs India scored three boundaries, England none. Yet in their 18th, 19th and 20th overs India scored 19 runs, while England scored 26. It means that Shrubsole and Dunkley, one extra from a wide aside, ran the equivalent of nearly 500 metres each in 19 deliveries. The Indians managed 60. England allowed one dot ball in those three overs. Mithali Raj alone played out six, with Fulmali adding another three at the end of the Indian innings. Just one more would have given India a tie. Two more, the match.

Even without the final score and these reflections on it, the match was an exciting one. It was a dead rubber, the series had been decided. But it was a Saturday and the eventual crowd at Barsapara was the largest of any of the six matches in the tour. Mandhana wanted her first win as captain, and her team wanted to keep the overall score all square, at three matches each team. Heather Knight, however, may have been thinking slightly differently. Katherine Brunt, England’s most effective bowler this tour, was rested. And, on winning the toss, Knight decided to bat. Perhaps she was challenging her team to bat first and win even though they knew the Indians preferred chasing. Perhaps she was testing her entire squad, which has lost more resources before and during this tour than Spinal Tap lost drummers. Whatever the reason, it was set up for Mandhana to play the innings that all cricket fans wanted to see: a big one, in a chase, leading to a win.

Danni Wyatt set off just as one expects, like a greyhound out of the traps. Tammy Beaumont wasn’t far behind. Each hit a six. Each hit fours. India kept their discipline and refused to give away a single extra. So England reached 50 in exactly seven overs with Wyatt on 24 and Beaumont on 26. In the next over, with right arm finger spinner Anuja Patil bowling, Wyatt for whatever reason saw the ball going wide, very wide, of off, but couldn’t resist stretching for it. Result: top edge caught at third man.

After which it was another England mini-collapse. Sciver didn’t seem to know where the ball was going after it pitched when the leggie Poonam Yadav was bowling, played and missed a couple and then heard, rather than saw, the third take her off stump, spinning from middle and missing her outside edge. Beaumont, believing this was the right time for it, charged Patil, missed, and was stumped. Taniya Bhatia makes few if any mistakes in situations like this.

Amy Jones and Knight did some repair work, and Jones was beginning to look like the batter we had seen in the WWT20 in the Caribbean, making her most useful score of the tour to date, when Knight decided to stretch forward to Ekta Bisht. The ball evaded her outside edge, and Bhatia took the bails off while Knight was still stretched, her back leg behind her as though in a yoga pose, and her foot about 10 cm in front of the crease. But that wasn’t enough. Mandhana brought Deol on to bowl her right arm leg spin and Lauren Winfield was deceived and trapped in front. England had lost five wickets in the space of scoring 31 runs. After the powerplay England had looked on course for a score in excess of 140. Now it looked as though 100 might be ambitious.

Nine runs later even Jones was gone. With her score on 22, she was dropped by Mandhana at mid off. To celebrate, she lofted Deol over Mandhana for four. Full of the joys of the Indian Spring she decided to do it again, and this time holed out to Shikha Pandey who had moved slightly finer at the boundary for just this eventuality. Significantly, the English batters had crossed over by then so Dunkley, who hadn’t yet scored, but had at least faced, got to play out the last two deliveries of the over.

This left Shrubsole and Dunkley to make the best they could out of the three overs left to them. As related earlier, they did not score a single boundary between them, but ran about half a kilometre each to take the final score up to 119, and India’s target to 120: a score they had not yet reached thus far in the T20 series. But it was an achievable score, a disappointing one from England’s point of view, and on an easy paced pitch that offered nothing like the seam or turn of the Wankhede pitches, it was the perfect opportunity for Mandhana to show what she could do.

She did.

For 58 runs over 39 deliveries Mandhana gave us left-handed elegance and unstoppable strokeplay, the likes of which has not been seen since the retirement of Brian Charles Lara. Glides through third man, pulls off the hip, lofted drives to long off and long on, pulls and cuts led to eight fours and a six, along with 20 runs she actually ran, in the remaining 29 deliveries. Little wonder that her partners at the other end, Deol and Rodrigues, contributed 12 runs in total to India’s first 59.

It didn’t last, however, as Mandhana, looking to gently stroke Laura Marsh on the off side, under-edged the delivery and saw it bounce back onto her stumps. Until then the match was over and India were walking it. Eight runs later Deepti Sharma attempted a quick two, and Raj ran as hard as she has in the last few months, but it was Sharma, slow on the turn and accelerating slowly on her way back, who found herself about 20 cm short as Jones gathered and took the bails off as neatly as a stumping.

Even so, it should have been India’s game but, perhaps traumatised by the run out, Raj refused anything that looked like a sharp run. She was going to be there until the end, and she was not going to run out any of her partners, waving them away as they looked at her whenever it was her call. Time was still on India’s side, as was Fulmali, who had shown her talent in her debut in the previous match. The lack of singles, however, meant that the required rate was rising, going from 4.5 with six-and-a-half overs left to a full 6 per over for the last three.

Knight, inexplicably, ignored Wyatt, who had bowled two overs for just seven runs, and went back to her seamers, Sciver, Shrubsole and Cross, for the last three overs. Raj hit Sciver three times to mid on but refused to run. Even so, the over seemed the end of the fight for England as she did manage two fours, using the pace the spinners would not have given her, and taking a single off the last ball. India needed just 9 in the last two overs.

Shrubsole managed to keep her discipline, Raj managed to curb any mad impulse to take quick singles, even though the first two deliveries were walked through for one each. And then, on the last ball, Raj once again used Shrubsole’s pace to get herself a four.

Which left, as we know, Cross with the unenviable task of defending three runs in the last over, with India only four wickets down. Somehow she did it, bowling straight at Fulmali and giving her no room to swing her arms, changing her length slightly from ball to ball so that Fulmali could not set herself up for it beforehand. Jones missed a stumping too, on the third ball, as it beat Fulmali coming forward, but bounced off Jones’ gloves. Before Jones could pick it up and remove the bails, the batter was back in her crease. On the fourth delivery, trying to take the pressure off, Fulmali holed out to Shrubsole at mid off. Next ball Anuja Patil jumped about halfway down the track, swinging for dear life and, inevitably, missing. Jones made up for her earlier miss, Patil was out, and Pandey came in for the last ball of the innings needing a three or better to win. She skewed it out to Beaumont at point who flung herself on it and then carefully sent it back without running any danger of an overthrow and, though the Indians ran, they could only get one.

Game over, and huge release and relief for the England camp.

Mandhana will look at the next few months, when India have no matches coming up, and consider deleting Aerosmith’s “Walk this way” from the playlist of every one of her teammates. The England squad, if they are Kate Bush fans, will consider “Running up that hill” was definitely worth it. Heather Knight, however, looking grim rather than triumphant at the presentation, might be wondering exactly how much of her squad’s depth she is going to have to test on the next leg of the tour, and be singing to herself (albeit without Ariana Grande’s satirical tone), “Thank you. Next.”

NEWS: Indians Top Salary League At ₹50 Lakhs

The BCCI have announced this year’s central contracts for the women’s team, with the top players now earning ₹50 lakhs – the equivalent of about £90,000 per year – considerably more than England and on a par with Australia.

The four “Tier A” players – Mithali, Harmanpreet, Smriti and Poonam Yadav – will take home the top amount of ₹50 lakhs, with players on Tiers B and C taking home ₹30 and ₹10 lakhs respectively. Adjusted for “PPP” – Purchasing Power Parity – a measure of what your money actually buys in your home country, this corresponds to a salary of about £90,000 a year in England.

Top Tier Contracts Salary Salary (GBP by PPP)
India ₹50 Lakhs £90,000
Australia $140,000 £75,000
England £50,000 £50,000

In contrast, the top Australians currently earn around $70,000 per year in basic salary, which they can double via match fees and additional earnings. Although the ECB do not release the numbers for England players, those in the top salary band are understood to earn around £50,000 per year.

This means that the best Indian players are currently the best paid in the world, even before you account for income from advertising and endorsements, with the likes of Smriti now promoting everything from sportswear to contact lenses and skin cream.

This is particularly interesting given the perception that Australia and England are leaps and bounds ahead of the pack in terms of professionalism – though it should be noted that Australia and England both have considerably more than 4 player on top tier contracts.

STATS: #ENGvIND – England Get ‘Em In Singles; India In Sixes

In the press conference following India’s loss to England in the 2nd T20 in Guwahati, Indian stand-in skipper Smriti Mandhana said:

“[A] major difference between other teams and our team is running between the wickets.”

Do the stats bear this out?

Looking at T20 cricket only, we can calculate Boundary and Non-Boundary Strike Rates for the “Big 4” teams over the past two years.

Team Runs Balls 4s 6s Boundary SR Non-Boundary SR
India 3734 3224 401 77 432 61
Australia 2685 2073 351 41 421 62
England 2672 2186 313 32 419 67
New Zealand 3227 2616 365 63 429 63

The numbers show that although India’s Non-Boundary Strike Rate is the lowest of the Big 4, at 61 runs per 100 balls, it is only just less than Australia’s at 62, whilst England have the best Non-Boundary Strike Rate at 67.

On the other side of the coin, India’s Boundary Strike Rate is the best of the Big 4 – basically, they hit a lot of 6s, giving them a Boundary Strike Rate of 432, just ahead of New Zealand’s 429. Conversely, England’s Boundary Strike Rate is the lowest of the Big 4, at 419 – they don’t hit so many 6s!

Overall we can see that whilst these differences aren’t huge, they are at their biggest when you compare India and England. England are seeing the benefits of the back-breaking fitness regime introduced by Mark Robinson 3 years ago, running like badgers between the wickets; whilst India have a more… shall we say… laid back attitude!

(A cynic might note at this point, that England might also be starting to see the drawbacks of their back-breaking fitness regime – it is literally breaking their backs, with no less than 3 players from the contracted squad currently out with stress fractures of the lower back!)

So perhaps what Smriti should have said is:

“[A] major difference between England and our team is running between the wickets.”

But overall though, she is right – this is an area India need to be working on – they’ve already got the hitting – add the running and they could be the world-beaters they long to be.

MATCH REPORT: 2nd T20, England v India – Oh Mandy, you came and you gave…

Ravi Nair reports

Smriti Mandhana (whom I dearly hope is called Mandy in the dressing room) has, probably since she made her debut, and definitely in the last two years, been thought of as FIC (Future India Captain) just as much as Mike Atherton was FEC to his team mates long before he captained England. She is only 22 and India are surely, barring ill-health or accident, going to see her rule the world as its premier batter for another 10 years at least, so it makes perfect sense for her to be considered the ideal next captain or co-captain for India. Fans, of her, and the game, however, might have wished the opportunity had not arrived quite so quickly. It is not easy to develop much confidence, in your ability, in the squad’s ability, or the squad’s in you, if you are two down with one to play in a home series. Yet that is the situation Mandhana is in after India lost the T20i series in Guwahati to an England performance that, while not as assured as during the first match, was still comfortable enough at the end.

It had all started well for India, though. Knight may have won the toss and decided to chase, which would also have been India’s preferred option, but it wasn’t a big issue: Mandhana correctly assessing that this fresh pitch would play much the way the first did, slow and consistent throughout the day. And Knight played her three-card bowling trick again, with Sciver, Shrubsole and Brunt taking overs 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Except this time Sciver’s first over didn’t go as planned, particularly as Deol cover drove her off the first delivery to the boundary and then she gave away five wides in the same over. Shrubsole’s first over was, if anything, even worse. Mandhana lofted her sublimely on her very first delivery over the long off boundary for six. And then repeated the dose later in the over. At 21 – 0 after 2 overs, it looked as though it could be an epic score for India.

Brunt, as she does so often for England, restored sanity in the third. Mandhana, trying the lofted drive yet again, misjudged the bowler and the line, to outside edge to the keeper. Amy Jones has the unenviable position of playing Stuart MacGill to Sarah Taylor’s Shane Warne when it comes to keeping for England. Jones is one of the best keepers in the world in her own right and it must have been frustrating to her, and to England, for her to have to be kept out of the first T20 through injury. Beaumont was whole-hearted in taking up the gloves for that match, but even she must have been relieved, as must everyone else in the England camp, to see Jones back behind the stumps. For Jones, even standing back as England’s keepers tend to do for each pace bowler’s first over, it was a regulation catch, and after that it was simply a question of how much the visitors could keep down the host’s score.

Wickets began to come more regularly, both Brunt and Linsey Smith bowling well enough to keep India in that twilight zone between trying to hold on to their wickets and still trying to push the score along. They weren’t helped by Mithali Raj’s disinclination to run quick singles. She nearly had Sharma run out early, and later achieved it just when her partner looked as though she had the measure of the bowling. In the absence of Harmanpreet Kaur, Raj is probably essential to add batting gravitas to this Indian T20 side, but she does sometimes make it hard to sympathise with her selection. Her 20 runs, though the highest score of the Indian innings, was not as valuable as that sounds, since they didn’t come quickly and she got out as soon as she attempted to push the scoring rate along.

Even on a pitch like this, unless you are a Smriti Mandhana, it will take an over or two to get its measure, and wickets falling will always stall an innings. India found their run rate dropping with almost every over, and certainly with every wicket. Once Sharma was gone, it was a steady procession with no improvement in the run rate. Special mention must be made, however, of Bharti Fulmali, making her debut: she kept her head and showed some good strokeplay to help India during the last third of their innings, and almost certainly helped achieve what respectability their score did.

England, after halfway, came out having to chase down India’s 111-8, on an easy pitch, and with the confidence of having set 160 on a near identical surface just a few days earlier. Wyatt set off like a drag racer, in the style England expect of her in T20i matches and it looked as though, at over a run a ball, requiring less than five an over, the match would soon be done. Beaumont, however, having spent a little while letting Wyatt make the running, decided it was time for her too. Unfortunately she may have forgotten that a slow pitch is not the same as a pitch that doesn’t take turn at all. Simply put, Beaumont jumped out to hit Radha Yadav (the left arm finger-spinner) missed the ball and lost her stumps.

After this, with Pandey being slightly less effective than has been her wont this tour, it was Bisht and the two Yadavs who put pressure on the England batting, chipping away at the wickets: Jones caught and bowled, Sciver LBW and Knight LBW; keeping the scoring rate down and giving their captain hope of a good fight. Albeit Wyatt at the other end had still not (and did not throughout her impressive unbeaten innings) dipped below a strike rate of more than a run a ball.

Winfield, in next, helped provide what England needed – a partnership with Wyatt that put the match to rest. In fact Winfield batted so well, getting her eye in quickly and scoring fours at every opportunity, that she easily outscored Wyatt during their 47 run stand. This might also be partly down to Wyatt, inspired by the maturity she had shown in the third ODI, throttling back to ensure she kept her wicket to see England home. When Winfield, ambitious and mistiming the ball a touch, holed out, England needed just 9 runs with 14 deliveries left.

Brunt just had to keep her wicket, survive a very close LBW shout, and score two runs. Wyatt did the rest as England won by 5 wickets with 5 balls in hand. It wasn’t an actual stroll in the park but it wasn’t as close as the scoreline might suggest.

Wyatt won Player of the Match, which was only fair, given she had scored 64* when nobody else on either side even reached 30 (and in fact only Winfield and Raj had even reached 20). It was also nice to see, after her “mature” face throughout her innings, to see the intensity relax into the smile we are accustomed to see from Danni Wyatt as she went up to collect her award.

As it stands, England sit dormy in this tour, being one match up in total, with one to play. They will want to win the last game, on Saturday, to prove that they are the side they believe they are. Mandhana will want her first win as a captain too. Given, however, that it is once more a “dead rubber”, the series having been decided, there may yet again be a slight lack of intensity in it. This would be a bit of a pity since, as the only the weekend match of this tour, it may well get the highest attendance of any match so far (where Barsapara stadium has already shown its ability to attract about five times as many spectators as Wankhede did).

As for India, despite the issues surrounding Raj’s place in the team, and her problems with the team management (now all allegedly smoothed over), since she was in the playing XI, it might just have been worthwhile making her the makeshift captain for this series and allowing Mandhana to bat with greater freedom, particularly in the first match, which might have made the difference between winning and losing this series. But now, battle-hardened as it were, she might as well captain for the third too: she is likelier to feel more confidence in her bowlers after this performance, and maybe even get the right blend of freedom to hit combined with responsibility, to make a substantial score of her own. It’s time for “Mandy” to do a little taking for herself.